Shed Abroad the Gift of the Spirit

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya

Shed Abroad the Gift of the Spirit

Beloved in Christ,

This last Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost, when God’s wild, reckless, uncontainable love set the early church on fire, igniting in the first Christians a singular passion to fold the whole hurting world into the healing arms of God’s love. Every Pentecost is an invitation to allow God to rekindle that fire in us, renewing our own passion to join God’s project to knit together the beautiful spectrum of human diversity into a communion of perfect love, reflecting how the very heart of God, the three in one, is difference without division and unity without uniformity.

In an election season that both features and plays out against the backdrop of what seems like a never-ending assault on the vulnerable, the poor, and the marginalized, with a dangerous white Christian nationalism threatening both the fabric of our common life and the integrity of the church’s public voice, the gift and fire of Pentecost are as urgently needed right now as they have ever been. The Book of Common Prayer’s collect for the Day of Pentecost asks God to “shed abroad this gift.” Here, I offer three spiritual anchors for our own hearts as we seek to shed abroad the gift of the Spirit in the tense and tender months to come.

Make your home with Jesus, in the power of the Spirit. 

Pentecost reminds us that Jesus has not signed off for some distant home in heaven, waiting passively for us to finish our course on earth and join him there. Rather, through the Spirit, Jesus remains present, real, and active in the world, in our communities, and in our lives. God’s project of restoring, healing, and liberating the whole world is not accomplished because we work hard enough, but because we allow ourselves to be caught up in God’s power. We can only do that if we are dedicating real time, every day, to make our home with Jesus: to spend time with him, abide in him, and learn from him, through prayer, steeping in scripture, and celebrating the sacraments through which our union to him is ever deepened. So while there is much work to do, our efforts will only be faithful if they are drawn from the deep well of the Spirit’s power. Do not neglect to soak yourself in that power each and every day. 

Study the saints who have gone before us.

In countless times of political division and turmoil, the church has not only survived, but thrived and found new life. While the particulars may be unique in this moment, we have been here before, and we have elders and ancestors who can not only teach and guide us, but are, as part of the church triumphant, actively guiding us, walking beside us, and urging us on. So study the lives and work of modern saints like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Barbara Clementine Harris, and many others who have been part of God shedding abroad the gift of the Spirit in their own times, as they stood with the oppressed and forgotten in the face of political threat, chaos, and human meanness. Study the lives and works of our ancient ancestors who did the same in their own day: Augustine of Hippo, Benedict of Nursia, Egeria and Marthana, Macrina, Methania the Elder, and the apostle Paul. They are all broken and imperfect lights who did their best to let the perfect light of Christ shine through them in their day, and they offer patterns we can learn from as we seek to do the same. 

Boldly reclaim Jesus from those who have corrupted his name.

As you likely know, white Christian nationalism refers to a diverse set of groups and movements that wrap the name of Jesus around a promise to restore white, American, and predominantly male privilege to a place from which they feel it has been unjustly removed by outside threats. They seek to restore that privilege through authoritarian social control. And they invoke the name of Jesus to support these aims and undergird these values, in direct contrast to the values Jesus taught and to which the entire arc of the scriptures point. It is a corruption and an abomination. And yet, many secular Americans simply assume this is what it means to be a Christian. 

It is imperative that we use our voice boldly to refute these claims and make sure that all the work we are already doing to care for the poor, to embrace those on the margins, to engage racial justice and healing, to offer welcome for those coming to our country fleeing unimaginable horrors, to proclaim the dignity and belovedness of LGBTQ+ persons, and on and on, we are doing unapologetically in the name of Jesus.

The gospel of Jesus is not partisan, but it is always political. We are not simply a political party at prayer, but the good news of Jesus, and our proclamation of it, always has to do with the real world, and with the real ways resources are managed, distributed, and shared. In our polarized culture, we have an opportunity to offer a third way, one that is not of the left or the right, but that is of God, and of Jesus' way of love. The key to our witness in this moment is to not simply parrot the rhetoric of one side, or critique that of the other, but to ground all we say and do in the real life and teaching of Jesus, in the proclamation of scripture about who God is and how God works in the world. As you seek to navigate that polarization in your own lives, keep it grounded in Jesus, rooted in the Bible, and steeped in the power of the Spirit.

I hope you will join me in praying for the fire of the Spirit to fall afresh on each of us and on our communities, that we might be continually revived, refreshed, and sent out to take our share in God's healing of the nations.

Grace and Peace,

The Right Reverend Craig Loya